Humboldt County








POSTED ON 12.28.2020

Operation Linebacker II - December 18-29, 1972

Operation Linebacker II was a U.S. 7th Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial bombing campaign, conducted against targets in North Vietnam during the final period of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. The operation took place December 18-29, 1972, leading to several informal names such as "The December Raids" and "The Christmas Bombings." Linebacker II was a "maximum effort" bombing campaign to destroy major target complexes in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas, which could only be accomplished by B-52s. It saw the largest heavy bomber strikes launched by the U.S. Air Force since the end of World War II. During Operation Linebacker II, a total of 741 B-52 sorties were dispatched to bomb North Vietnam; 729 completed their missions. B-52s dropped a total of 15,237 tons of ordnance on eighteen industrial and fourteen military targets, including eight surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites, while fighter-bombers added another 5,000 tons of bombs to the tally. Another 212 B-52 missions were flown within South Vietnam in support of ground operations during the campaign. North Vietnamese forces fired about 1,240 SAMs. The Air Force lost 15 B-52 bombers, which amounted to a loss rate of less than two percent. Ten B-52s were shot down over the North and five others were damaged and crashed in Laos or Thailand. Thirty-three B-52 crew members were killed or missing in action, another thirty-three became prisoners of war, and twenty-six more were rescued. The lost B-52 crewmen included SMSGT Walter L. Ferguson, LTC Donald L. Rissi, CAPT Robert J. Thomas, MAJ Richard W. Cooper Jr., CMSGT Charlie S. Poole, MAJ Irwin S. Lerner, CMSGT Arthur V. McLaughlin Jr., LTC Randolph A. Perry Jr., LTC John F. Stuart, CAPT Craig A. Paul, MAJ Warren R. Spencer, MSGT Charles J. Bebus, COL Keith R. Heggen, COL Edward H. Johnson, MAJ Robert R. Lynn, CAPT Donavan K. Walters, CAPT Randall J. Craddock, MAJ Charles E. Darr, COL Bobby A. Kirby, CAPT George B. Lockhart, CAPT Ronald D. Perry, COL Frank A. Gould, COL Gerald W. Alley, MAJ Thomas W. Bennett Jr., CAPT Joseph B. Copack Jr., CAPT Robert J. Morris Jr., MAJ Nutter J. Wimbrow III, LTC Donald A. Joyner, MAJ Lawrence J. Marshall, CAPT Roy T. Tabler, CAPT James M. Turner, 1LT Bennie L. Fryer, and LTC Allen L. Johnson. [Taken from,, and]
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POSTED ON 5.3.2019
POSTED BY: Lucy Micik

Thank You

Dear Cpl Keith Heggan,
Thank you for your service as an Air Operations Officer. I am glad you were identified in 1992. Welcome Home. The war was years ago, but we all need to acknowledge the sacrifices of those like you who answered our nation's call. Please watch over America, it stills needs your strength, courage and faithfulness. Rest in peace with the angels.
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POSTED ON 3.7.2019
POSTED BY: Pete Martineau

A friend, an excellent father and husband, a superior pilot

Keith was a substitute pilot killed by anti aircraft missiles during one of the very last days of Viet Nam war combat. I held Keith in high regard. He earned the respect of all those who knew him.
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POSTED ON 5.6.2014

Final Mission of COL Keith R. Heggen

Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated offensive of the war--known as Linebacker II--in December 1972. During the offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings", 40,000 tons of bombs were dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only when all U.S. POWs were released and an internationally recognized cease-fire was in force. The Christmas Bombings, despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the most precise the world had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of strikes generally agree that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic targets was so successfull that the U.S., had it desired, "could have taken the entire country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in Hanoi and marching them southward." On December 21, 1972, a B-52G bomber stationed on Guam was ordered to take part in the Christmas bombings. The crew of this B52 consisted of pilot LTCOL James Y. Nagahiro, co-pilot CAPT Donovan K. Walters, electronic warfare officer MAJ Robert R. Lynn, gunner SSGT Charles J. Bebus, and crewmembers CAPT Lynn R. Beens, COL Keith R. Heggen, and COL Edward H. Johnson. Their B-52G was outfitted more or less as were the other B52 models, equipped with .50-callibre M-3 guns and 27-750 pound bombs, but with the additional capacity to carry aerial mines. LTCOL Nagahiro's aircraft successfully completed its mission, but was hit by a surface to air missile (SAM) in the tail section shortly after turning toward the safety of Thailand. Nagahiro gave the order for the crew to eject. The fate of the crew is varied. Nagahiro, Beens and Heggen were captured, and Heggen died in captivity. Until his release, the U.S. did not know Nagahiro had been captured. After their release in 1973, Nagahiro and Beens were able to fill in further information on the missing crew members. Nagahiro relates that he saw Walters eject from the plane and heard four others, Lynn, Bebus, Heggen and Beens, go out from behind him. Beens states that he saw Walter's identification card in a stack of cards on a desk at Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton) prison in Hanoi. Nagahiro saw Johnson's name written on a pad at the prison. Hegger was captured alive, but died in captivity. Although the Vietnamese returned the remains of Keith Heggen in March 1974, they have consistently denied knowledge of any of the rest of the crew. In October 1988, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of Bebus, Johnson, Lynn and Walters and returned them to U.S. control. For 16 years, they were political prisoners--alive or dead--of a communist nation. [Narrative taken from; image from]
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POSTED ON 12.15.2013
POSTED BY: Curt Carter [email protected]

Remembering An American Hero

Dear Colonel Keith Russell Heggen, sir

As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.

May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. May he also allow my father to find you and shake your hand now to say thank you; for America, and for those who love you.

With respect, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir

Curt Carter
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